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tv   Your Business  MSNBC  March 21, 2010 7:30am-8:00am EDT

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banks still aren't lending to small businesses. what's the government doing and how can hard hit entrepreneurs repair their battered credit ratings? we'll have that plus pitching your business on qvc next on "your business."
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hi everyone. i'm jean chatzky filling 15 for jj ramberg. welcome to "your business" where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. many small business owners are having problems getting credit and bank failures are partly to blame. 192 banks failed. the treasury is worried that the cost of bor youing will go up making it too expensive for some small business owners to get loans. this week the head of the sba
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karen mills voiced her concern over a lack of lending to small firms. greg clarkson is executive vice president and sba division manager for bbba compass t company is the nation's 15th largest commercial bank. it wrote $9 billion in new loans last year and named the sba's lender of the year. welcome. >> thank you, jean. >> so, what are you doing that other banks around the country don't seem to be able to do right now? >> well, one thing that we've been able to do is we stayed focused on getting capital out to small businesses. we've recognized early on in the process that the recession was going to impact small businesses, impact their revenues, impact their balance sheets, and we've made the commitment to recognize that in our credit decisions, and focus in on getting capital out there. >> is there a way for small
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business owners to write their loan applications in a way that will make them look better to the banks that do or do not have enough cash to lend? >> what we're looking at as a lender is to make sure that the owner understands the issues, understand understands what it takes to return their business to full profitability and to be able to repay the indebtedness that they have. >> with us in the studio are jennifer hill, vice president with a group dedicated to helping female entrepreneurs achieve success and gene marks, president of the marks group. welcome. let me ask you, jennifer, as you listen to greg's remarks where do you see the lenders, the businesses that you're dealing with have success in finding capital? >> i think the biggest single factor is that the entrepreneurs understand exactly what the realistic terms are in getting
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money. i think one of the challenges is figuring out what the criteria are, do they qualify. often that's not information that's readily available. we find that the entrepreneurs that do their homework and decide if it's worth the time investment to go forward and apply generally have a better result. >> agree? >> i look and i hear business owners complain about banking environment. this is what the reality is right now. i feel like a few years ago the reality wasn't the same. it was actually sort of unreality. my business bought a property a few years ago and for us to get a loan it took nothing, i signed a piece of paper. that was it. now we're buying another property over this past month, the banks are like killing us. they are putting us through these hoops and guess what, it's not such a bad thing. i kind of get why they would ask the questions. >> it's like a homeowner looking for a second mortgage at this point. part of the onus is on us to
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reformulate our expect aces. >> yeah. it's not i'm a fan of the banking industry but they get a bad wrap. they gave out bad loans. what a surprise some of them are going south. business owners like myself are looking to loan money, they want to finance, well, we have to have a p and l, ability to pay it back. they make an investment in us. they are asking the questions they should have been asking and it took the recession to be honest. >> greg, crystal ball fort me as you look out into the next couple of years, will lending, capital, will the funds come back? >> i think definitely the funds will come back. we've seen signs of that already. and i think that as we continue to -- the economy continues to recover, i think lending is going to become easier and the risk/tolerance that banks are willing to take is going to continue to expand and money will be out there. i think that one of the key
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points is to establish a relationship. establish that relationship with your banker. good times and bad times. make sure you have your deposit accounts, make sure you have your home mortgages, it's a lending relationship and not just transaction based which is what we experienced in the last few years before the recession. >> great information. greg clarkson, thank you so much for being with us. gene and jennifer, you'll be back. later we'll look at some of the steps you can take if this crunch has hurt your credit rating. have you ever been up late at night and maybe, in a moment of weakness, bought something sold on tv? yes. and as a small business owner, have you ever wondered how people get their products on the tube in the first place? we did. so, we followed two entrepreneurs, one on a repeat appearance, the other making her maiden voyage on qvc.
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>> thank you. >> this is the power of qvc. in less than ten minutes make upartist tricia sawyer went from an unknown product to a bestseller. >> i hope it continues. we're planning on going full steam ahead from here. >> qvc debuted in 1987. two decades and 160 million homes later it sells products from clothing and accessories to the latest in home and garden and everything in between. for many small business owners, it's seen as the holy grail, a way to get in assistant access to millions of potential customers.
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qvc won't let just anyone on. >> the things that don't work are things you can find anywhere. the commodity products where it may be a great price, but there's nothing else really special about it. so we're looking for things that are a little off the beaten path, really special, the better mouse trap, those types of ideas. >> sawyer's specialty is making stars camera read on film sets. but sayier didn't call on her famous friends to help her launch her product. she went straight to qvc. getting on this set wasn't easy. it took two years from the time she first e-mailed the director of beauty merchandising. and asking for a meeting. >> i think it's really kind of talent-based. you either have that ability or you don't have it. and she's got it. >> the qvc team worked with her on her product and packaging, then put her through their vigorous guest training program.
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>> it was amazing. it really was. you get hooked up with a mentor, and you do a mock-up. sell of your product. it's really pretty much you write down a few things about your product and hand it to the host and you're on, you know, camera, basically. you just kind of go through it. >> the founders of p.b.loco found their way through a different route. they attended a product search held a few times a year in cities across the country. basically, an open casting call for an array of products. these three lawyers popped out of the corporate world to start their company. unlike sawyer they had to prove themselves in the market before qvc took notice. >> we were chosen after a lot of work it took doing but we were like we know we can sell. put us on. we can sell. >> they made good on their promise, selling out on their first appearance. >> and this just sold out.
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>> great! thank you. >> congratulations. >> do one thing. make more and come back. >> now on the seventh appearance kerry says the pressure to sell out is always on. >> i don't know what to expect from today. it's our first time since we've been on saturday. i'm more nervous than i would be. >> getting ready. come on. let's get busy with gourmet peanut butter. >> debuting chocolate banana may have been the key to success. it flew off the shelves in under 10 minutes. >> it's gone. >> while the benefits can be enormous, there are risks, too. and the whole process is not easy for the sellers. >> working with qvc, we're going to make you jump through some hoops. it's not a walk in the park. >> ask the guys and they'll say
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at least for them it's all worth it. >> before qvc we had houses mortgaged for the business. it's really tough to start a business. financially in terms of it was the three of us, and it's scary. and it stays scary for a long time. but it got less scary. >> i would love to come back to qvc and do more. this is home. many entrepreneurs are finding it difficult to secure bank loans because of the turbulent economy. hurting from late payments on loans and relyingen the company's credit card to finance day-to-day operations made their credit scores plummet. the good news is that there are measures you can take to repair the damage. our next guest has advice that's sure to help you re-establish your credit profile. gerry detwiler is a small credit expert at credit.com ho who
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focuses on budget, credit card and savings information. hi, it's nice to see you. >> hi, jean. >> so you have a number of tips for small businesses, entrepreneurs who really need help getting back in this credit game. the first one is to know where you stand. >> absolutely. you have to know where your credit reports and your credit scores stand. you also sort vf to know the numbers. this sounds obvious but when you're a business owner and you're busy trying to make things happen and make sales the numbers can slip by. check your credit reports and scores, know how much you owe, the interest rates and the minimum payments and your debts so you can formulate a strategy. >> when you look at your credit reports, if you see information that doesn't belong to you, how do you sfoot those mistakes? >> you have the right to dispute any information that is inaccurate or incomplete. you start with the credit bureaus, just fill out a dispute online or send them a written
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letter. if that doesn't resolve it then you can go straight to the source, to the creditor or lender whose reporting the information in dispute. i think it's important to understand what is a mistake and what isn't. for example, collection accounts. collection account can stay for 7 1/2 years whether you paid it or not. and after that time period it has to be removed. again, whether you paid it or not. paying it doesn't necessarily improve your credit score. so you also have to understand how long information can be reported to see whether it should be on there or not. >> you talk about building strong references. what does that mean in a credit context? >> well, the good news is that even if you have terrible credit, you can start rebuilding credit immediately. that's because the credit score is most interested in the information in the last two years. the other stuff may still be on there but it becomes less important as you start to build new references. so the strongest reference you're going to want on your credit report is a credit card
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that's current, paid on time without a lot of debt. so if you don't have one because you've had credit problems, get a secured card. you put a deposit in the bank, sort of like a credit card with training wheels. that will establish that reference. the other thing, though, jean, that's important is to remember that fico, especially with fico 08 the recent version of the scoring system, really wants to see a mix of different credit accounts. not just a credit card but an installment loan like a car loan or student loan or mortgage. something else to back up that you have the ability and the intention to pay your bills on time. >> before we run out of time i want to get to your last two tips. you say avoid score killers. and build your business credit. can you spend a minute on each. >> sure. don't close out old accounts unless they won't waive the annual fee. leave them alone even if you don't like the company. don't open a lot of new accounts, that creates inquiries which can hurt your credit. and really avoids co-signing.
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that can hurt your credit even if the other person pays the bill on time. it's part of your credit score. lastly, entrepreneurs need to know that you can also build a business credit rating that's completely separate from your personal credit rating. no matter how bad your personal credit is you can establish references by buying from companies that report to business credit bureaus like dmb, even small business and those references can help you get business lines of credit as well as business trade accounts. >> gerry, thank you so much. if you haven't checked your credit recently go to annual credit report.com where you can pull a credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every year for free. the economic climate is still very much in flux but there are some areas that are poised for growth. here are the top five recession recovery cities courtesy of forbes.com. five on the list, san antonio,
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texas. this city's health care and education sectors are surging. coming in at four, huntsville, alabama. the local economy is built around emerging technologies. it's helped to a research park. number three, boulder, colorado. this university town has a skilled labor force and is also home to a number of high tech research labs. number two, fayetteville, arkansas. the region is home to walmart which sustains the entire local economy. and this city that is most poised to rebound in 2010, austin, texas. austin's gdp is projected to grow by $5 billion in 2010. still to come, can you force employees to adhere to a dress code? and, a designer needs fabrics and the owner of a material library needs designers. symbiotic small businesses working together for fun and profit.
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i own a small law firm and i'm a much better lawyer than i am an accountant. so, when i wasn't getting paid as quickly as i would like, i did what came naturally. i threatened to sue. turns out, that's not the best way to keep clients. so i went looking for answers online at openforum.com it's a place where i can talk with other small business owners like thomas and connie and learn about tools like acceptpay. it's a new way to bill online that can help me get paid much faster, without the need for any legal intimidation, which gives me a warm fuzzy feeling... sort of like these super comfortable socks made from the soft, supple wool of alpacas. looking good. thank you. owners are asking questions. owners are getting answers. and american express open is building the tools they need. tools like acceptpay,
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which lets owners take their accounts receivable online. acceptpay. invoice digitally. get paid faster. only from american express open. sometimes the greatest ideas can hit you when you least expect it. that's the case with one entrepreneur whose creative calling has been a source of inspiration for top designers. today, we find out how one business is making it its business to keep other businesses in the know. i'm as much a business person in a way as a designer. so, when i'm making products, i really try to evaluate the
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market penetration that it can have. >> sandy chilewich has the brain of a business woman t. eye of an artist, and the talent of a magician. >> represents that dark color in both the weaves. from the manhattan studio of her design company she spends her days turning vinyl into designer gold. >> all the materials that i work with had a life before i found them. >> what was this? >> erosion matting for agricultural purposes. a completely industrial purpose. i mean, i looked at it and thought my god, this would be an amazing table top product. >> her company sells more than $20 million of trendy place mats, napkins, rings and floor coverings each year. >> we sell for stores around the world, from a department store like bloomingdale's to a design store. >> while her place mats made her
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famous she says her focus is on materials, textiles and designs, not the humble functions they serve. >> i hate to call them place mats. it sounds like really boring. what do you think about this? >> she says she came to this industry largely by following her artistic intuition. >> it's not like i close my eyes and think this would be good. the world needs another place mat. it doesn't worksaid, this would be a good idea. the world needs another placemat. it doesn't work like that. >> they start with a product and figure out how to make it. sandy works just the other way around. she starts with the raw materials first and then decides how to use them later. >> i start with the textile. i design the textile. >> the remix of unexpected materials for her products has made the business a standout and the place she goes to find her inspiration is another small business also located in manhattan called material connexion. >> you simply apply water to.
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we provide a resource to materials and we do that through 5,000 innovative materials. >> with a ph.d. in physics he has created an industrial research laboratory of more than 5,000 materials from glass to steel to resin to wood. you might call it a petting zoo of new materials. >> we provide direct access to the materials that allow people to touch and feel, to experience it, see what it feels like when it's stretched, against the light, this sort of thing. >> dan hooks up the manufacturers who don't know the designers with the designers who don't know about materials being used outside of their own industry. >> imagine anybody producing something, if you want to produce something better, chances are you need a better material.
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>> before material connexion set up shop, people like sandy used to travel far and wide to find inspirations. now it's one-stop shopping and companies big and small come here to see the latest stuff. not long ago sneaker designers from nike showed up to check out the goodies in the collection. >> the designers for the jordan brand came in, were looking for materials for the tongue of the sneaker. >> they found some explosion proof industrial hose material intended to bundle electric cables which they decided would be perfect for their sneakers. >> this movement allows easy, quick access, protection, as well as no creasing and bending. that's the properties of this host. they wouldn't have found it if they went to their standard vendors. >> the library is a bright-colored shop of shape, texture and fun. for all the innovators who create the materials, it's a showcase to broaden their markets.
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it's time now to answer some of your business questions. our first question is about the number of visitors to a company's website. >> how is it best that we would convert our traffic to paid sal sales? >> that's a very good question a lot of people have today. what do you think? >> that's actually an easy answer only because my company sells some of the stuff and i know a lot of applications. a management application, every small business should have it. and i don't even understand companies that don't have them nowadays. there are a lot of popular ones out there, act, gold mine, even microsoft outlook. anything that comes into your website, any lead, should go into an application so follow-ups can be made. >> you said you sell these things. how much of an investment does a company have to make? >> as few as a couple hundred thousand, depending on what the users are. you buy microsoft 2007, that has
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the business management leader. make sure the leads are going into your system whether you write something to put them in there or manually key them in. follow up on those people. it may not be a sale today but could be six months from now. >> you need the human touch, agree? >> i do. take a look at the analytics for your site. you should be able to see where people are getting stuck -- are people getting stuck in the shopping cart, what's the flow like for making purchases? take a look and think of new ways to entice people to stay on your site longer. that may help them convert sales. >> next up we have a question from richard. he writes, is it legal for me to have a dress code at my office? jennifer, you're an attorney, can you put on your legal hat for us? >> i can. this is actually a great question because the work place has changed so much in the last three years and there's a lot of assumptions about it. the key thing that employers need to keep in mind is that if you're going to have a policy it
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can't discriminate on the basis of race, gender or religion. so here is what you do. first, understand exactly why you're having the policy. tie it to a neutral business reason. are your employees facing customers, are you look iing to protect your brand, are there health and safety reasons? this makes it easy then to explain very clearly to your employees what the code is. add it to your handbook, to your internet site, things like that. it should be in writing and as well it needs to be evenly enforced so make sure that across the company you're very consistent. that said, also make exceptions where reasonable and good common sense is often the judge of that. also a good idea to consult an employment attorney in your local jurisdiction. they can keep you up to date on case law and any particular changes that might affect your policy. >> okay. all right. one more question from diane and she writes, if i have a unique idea for a website, how do i patent or copyright the idea? again, very legal. >> very legal. and the whole copyright/patent trademark is where entrepreneurs need to get smart very quickly. each is certainly a valid form
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protection. the first thing i recommend this entrepreneur do is go to two websites. copyright.gov and the u.s. patent and trademark office. they have some really great short guides that explain to first-time entrepreneurs exactly what it means to get a copyright on an original work of authorship, what steps need to be taken to patent an idea. as well, this is a wonderful time to find an intellectual property lawyer. you can really work together and develop a cost effective strategy for figuring out what type of intellectual property she has and how best to protect it. >> fabulous information. thank you so much. >> thank you. >> and if you have a question for our experts, i'd love you to go to our website, our address is yourbiztv.com. again, yourbiztv.com. you can also e-mail us your questions or comments. that address is yourbusiness@msnbc.com.
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now that we've heard from some of our experts, let's get some survival tips from small business owners just like you. >> i made everyone partners. i created strong incentives within each and every one of my employees where we all have a stake in the company. we all win, we all lose, and we all have a good time doing what we do. >> the way i survived was by major cutbacks and what i did, i cut back early on and now as the economy changes and i've been able to get a better handle on what's he going on, i've been able to vamp up again and add things back to the concept of my company. >> my advice would be to stop being scared. right now i'm 25 years old, a lot of my clients are the same age group. i see people are scared to leave their routine. we're only 25 so it's crazy to me. so instead of being scared, now is the time to give it a shot.
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do you ever find yourself sitting at your computer racking your brain to remember a password you use once every six months? if so, you might want to check out our website of the week. passpack.com is a free password manager that can help you keep track of all your log in information. the site stores everything in one secure file which you can access through your computer or smart phone. you can create and share files with your staff. to learn more about today's show click on our website, it's yourbiztv.com. you'll find all of today's segments plus web exclusive content with more information to help you grow your business. and next week meet a entrepreneur who has ideal customers and is doing whatever it takes to find them. >> in today's market in business money is a commodity that you can't risk losing so rapidly. mistakes have to be at a minimum.
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>> we'll tell you why this salon owner is doing plenty of homework before finalizing plans to expand. till then, i'm jean chatzky and, remember, we make your business our business. i own a small law firm and i'm a much better lawyer than i am an accountant. so, when i wasn't getting paid as quickly as i would like, i did what came naturally. i threatened to sue. turns out, that's not the best way to keep clients. so i went looking for answers online at openforum.com it's a place where i can talk with other small business owners like thomas and connie and learn about tools like acceptpay. it's a new way to bill online that can help me get paid much faster, without the need for any legal intimidation, which gives me a warm fuzzy feeling... sort of like these super comfortable socks

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